“All artistic creations are born of a resistance to one’s era.” Yukio Mishima
“All artistic creations are born of a resistance to one’s era.” Yukio Mishima
The best fiction and writing blog posts from around the ‘net, with advice and inspiration guaranteed to make you a literary black belt. Compiled by yukio.
Cady Vishniac – Some Myths About Your Submissions
A. J. Humpage – Focusing On Small Details
Marcy Kennedy – How To Evoke Emotions In Readers
Elizabeth Svoboda – How Stories Change Our Brains
Ryan Lanz – Writing With Heart: Creating An Emotionally Engaging Character
Brett and Kate McKay – Why Every Man Should Study Classical Culture
Whitney Carter – WorldBuilding: Crafting Magic
Yukio Mishima – About Life And Writing
“It’s convenient to have a science fiction and fantasy section, it’s convenient to have a mainstream literary fiction section, but these should only be guides, they shouldn’t be demarcated territories where one type of reader belongs and another type of reader does not belong.” – David Mitchell
Most folks think of writing as a monkish, abstract endeavor more akin to meditation than exertion. But there’s a vital connection between the discipline of putting one word after another and taking one stride after another, as Nick Ripatrazone explains in this must-read Atlantic article:
The steady, repetitive movement of distance running triggers one’s intellectual autopilot, freeing room for creative thought. Neuroscientists describe this experience as a feeling of timelessness, where attention drifts and imagination thrives. …
Since I’ve returned to distance running, I’ve changed the way I think about writing. Writing exists in that odd mental space between imagination and intellect, between the organic and the planned. Runners must learn to accept the same paradoxes, to realize that each individual run has its own narrative, with twists and turns and strains.
Writers and runners use the same phrase—“hit my stride”—to describe the moment when exertion and work become joy. Writers stuck on a sentence should lace their sneakers and go for a jog, knowing that when they return, they will be a bit sweatier, more tired, but often more charged to run with their words.
We know a sound mind in a healthy body is sharper and livelier because mind and body are not two separate entities. Each one affects the other. But Ripatrazone expands on this truth by proposing that running helps the mind harmonize with the rhythm and tempo of the body, stimulating the writer’s ability to “focus on a single, engrossing task and enter a new state of mind entirely—word after word, mile after mile.”
I fully agree, and would add that other physical activities also promote writing ability. I’ve found that weightlifting, a strenuous, repetitive, and somewhat dangerous activity, sharpens my focus and endurance, two qualities essential to getting words onto paper. Yukio Mishima even wrote a book, Sun and Steel, about the benign discipline lifting weights imposed on his writing. And Ernest Hemingway relied on boxing to help him break occasional writer’s block.
Here’s how I came to write it. While researching an alt history novel I’m working on, I saw a video about Japanese Kamikaze pilots saying good-bye to their loved ones and dedicating their lives to their nation in a solemn ritual before taking off. It was deeply moving to see those young men preparing for death. I could not help but recall Mishima’s Patriotism.
A few days later, I read an Atlantic article entitled How Indie Rock Changed The World. That’s when the scenario and characters came to me. Several of my interests, including music, history, electronics, and writing converged into a gritty, yet hopeful, post-apocalyptic tale. I hope you enjoy it.
The best fiction and writing blog posts from around the ‘net, with advice and inspiration guaranteed to make you a literary ninja. Compiled by mishima.
Nihar Pradhan – Travelling, Photographing & Writing
Jon Westenberg – 30 Reasons Why I Write
Marcy Kennedy – Internal Dialogue: The Secret Sauce to Fixing Problems?
James Royce Patterson – Five Ways To Improve Your Writing’s Flow
Damyanti – Have You Always Been A Writer?
C.S. Wilde – How I Write
K.L. Register – Why Do You Write?
Samantha Who – The Keeper of Lost Causes
I think writers are as necessary as doctors. Like a doctor, the writer performs the vital functions of diagnosing patients, advising them, and healing them.
Diagnosing: Through the generations, writers, like doctors, pretty much say the same things over and over, but in fresh, personal language. That’s because the human condition does not change. We must be told we are mortal, that we can and will get hurt, and that we should take better care of ourselves and loved ones.
Ernest Hemingway’s magnificent tale of war and loss in A Farewell To Arms remains one of the most powerful and vivid tales of the madness of World War I. Of course, its narrative is timeless because humanity is still being dazed and bloodied by conflict and loss. I still recall reading that book in high school, and how it shook me to the core the way it made the abstraction of death real. In the powerful final scene, the protagonist, Frederic Henry, makes the nurses leave the room where his wife has died in childbirth. He is determined to say goodbye. However, something is wrong:
But after I had got them out and shut the door and turned off the light it wasn’t any good. It was like saying good-bye to a statue. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.
Feel the lid of the coffin slamming down? The “statue” image chilled my marrow at age 17. An invaluable lesson.
Advising: Because death and suffering are real, the writer, like a good doctor, must caution readers about what they should and should not do. Sometimes we don’t listen, and need to be slapped in the face and reminded there are certain risks we’re taking without thinking about the possible consequences. Larry Niven’s “Bordered in Black” is one breathtaking example. I won’t give away the plot, but the story begins with Earth’s most famous astronaut destroying the first faster-than-light ship, from which he’s just explored the farthest reaches of space. Niven’s advice is this: Out there in the dark unknown, in alien places where the light from the nuclear fires we call stars cannot reach, there may have arisen Beings that are nothing like the cuddly ET. Nothing at all.
Something to think about before we broadcast more “Come on down!” messages from our radio telescopes.
Healing: And finally, no matter how well we take care of ourselves, pain and loss will find us. One story I enjoy re-reading is Yukio Mishima’s “Death in Midsummer,” which is about the accidental drowning of two children. The parents struggle to recover, and are finally able to return to the beach where their children died:
From beneath the clouds, the sea came toward them, far wider and more changeless than the land. The land never seems to take the sea, even its inlets. Particularly along a wide bow of coast, the sea sweeps in from everywhere.
The waves came up, broke, fell back. Their thunder was like the intense quiet of the summer sun, hardly a noise at all. Rather an earsplitting silence. A lyrical transformation of the waves, not waves, but rather ripples one might call the light derisive laughter of the waves at themselves – ripples came up to their feet and retreated again.
Those lines, I think, illustrate the surprising and timeless beauty that can emerge from harsh reality. By confronting our mortal condition, we appreciate more intently what it means to live. Finding that beauty is often difficult and fleeting, but it is possible, and literature helps us see it.
And those are the reasons I read. And write.